By Lindsey Bahr | Associated Press

Producing original movie sequels is often a thankless job. You can’t just do the same thing again, but you can’t be too different either. And many followers will be on their guard from the start, suspecting that it is ultimately just a shameless cash grab.

For Knives Out, Rian Johnson’s love letter to Agatha Christie-esque crime fiction, there was money in the headlines: Netflix paid $450 million for two sequels to his fresh, funny film about a wealthy family and a Southern detective who solves a m*rder case their patriarch.

But you can put those worries aside: “The Glass Onion: The Secret of Removing the Knives” proves that Johnson was up to the task. He sends the audience to solve a new mystery with Daniel Craig’s canny honey-voiced detective, Benoit Blanc. This time, Blanc is summoned to a private island in Greece with another group of very rich, very suspicious garbage collectors, self-proclaimed wreckers during the troubled, isolated days of the pandemic.

There’s the eccentric tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) who has brought everyone together in his opulent Greek oasis; his estranged business partner, Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Janelle MonĂ¡e); politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn); scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.); model and founder of tracksuit line Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson); male rights YouTuber Duke Cody (Dave Bautista); and his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline). Jessica Henwick stands out among the all-star ensemble as Birdie’s assistant/guide Peg.

Most of them are pretty awful, although some are less self-aware than others. Claire, for example, seems particularly tormented by the compromises she’s made to rise in politics, while Birdie just makes her way through life and various social media scandals, mostly unfazed. But everyone is somehow grateful to the noisy egomaniac Miles, who dreams of talking about him in the same breath as Mona Lisa and communicates only by fax.

Johnson could not have predicted that his film would come out while we watched another tech billionaire try to launch Twitter, but Miles’ bravado may sound familiar to any listener. Perhaps these jammers are not as unpredictable as they think.

It is Miles who assembles the gang, promising to play a game to solve his m*rder designed by none other than Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Blanc, who was bored to the point of losing his mind and mostly relegated to the bathtub in his New York apartment with a boyfriend played by a very famous face that will remain untouched, is very excited to ditch the bathtub and bring out his colorful linen and silk cravats for a closer look this group.

If the New England WASP style in Knives Out has become as much a topic of conversation as the film itself, one can only imagine how audiences will take Jenny Eagan’s costumes in The Glass Onions, from the demurely chic matching Blanc swimsuit to disco glam birdie dresses. The set designer also plays with the coking aesthetics of one of the key rooms from the 1980s.

As the title suggests, this mystery is layered and layered – not even the main m*rder is revealed until, deep within the film, Johnson rewinds and reframes much of what we’ve just seen. And it’s bigger, wilder and funnier than its predecessor.

The movie will be in theaters this week for a week before streaming on Netflix on December 23, which almost guarantees many, many scenes will be spoiled before it hits your home theater (IMDB will spoil it too, FYI). But let’s hope the theatergoing audience will be kind enough to keep the real secret a secret.

“The Glass Onion: The Secret of the Knife”

3 stars out of 4

Rating: PG-13 (for strong language, violence, s*xual material and dr*gs)

Duration: 139 minutes

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